By Jack Dignan
The Ocean’s movies have a distinct and undeniable charm about them that, even in the bad films, is ever present. They’re fast, stylish and oozing with charisma. A new installment is always welcomed, and as it seems Hollywood is hell-bent on remaking all their male led movies with female leads, an all-female Ocean’s movie certainly isn’t the worst choice. But that doesn’t automatically make it a good film. And if there’s one thing this new sequel is in drastic need of, it’s the visual style and upbeat tempo of the films that came before it.
George Clooney’s Danny Ocean is out of the picture. His sister, Debbie (Sandra Bullock), has recently been freed from prison, and while locked behind bars, Debbie got planning. Now free, she’s determined to return to her criminal ways and pull off a heist bigger than she’s ever pulled before; a $150 million necklace to be worn by Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) during this year’s met gala. So Debbie puts together a crew, featuring an all star cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Awkwafina and Sarah Paulson, and she begins working on what soon becomes an impossible heist.
It’s the same old heist film you’ve seen done to death, all building towards a twist you can predict based on the title alone, but these films don’t strive for pure originality. They work due to creative obstacles and a hell of a lot of charm. As expected, the actual heist elements of Ocean’s Eight are an absolute delight. All of the characters tie together nicely in the grand scheme of the plot, using their (somewhat) distinguishable abilities in a number of thrills and close calls. It goes just about exactly as you’d expect, but it’s always fun and the cast absolutely kill it.
There’s not a weak link to be found when all these actors are in the spotlight, even if character arcs are completely absent (but have they ever really been present in these films?). Every character gets a small, but memorable glimmer of an outside life, which is hard to balance in such a gigantic cast, but it works for the purpose of the film. You won’t leave head over heels in love with any of them, but they’re serviceable for the plot and the actors absolutely go to town. Just look at that cast. It’s insane how many celebrities are in this film, and none feel wasted. Not even James Cordon!
The reason Ocean’s Eight won’t stand the test of time isn’t the cast, nor really the script, but more so the execution of it all. Director Gary Ross (Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) struggles to find both an enjoyable rhythm and visual appeal. A lot of the jokes are ones that appear to have worked on paper, but when filmed the actors just deliver their lines in medium close up with no pre-rehearsed timing. Editor Juliette Welfling has made a name for herself through slow, bleak dramas, and this style of editing works perfectly for that, but the Ocean’s films need to move at a faster, swifter, stylish pace, and this doesn’t.
You could easily take what’s already here and edit it down from a 110-minute movie to a 100-minute movie without actually sacrificing any major scene. Along with Ross, Welfling feels like a strange choice for a film like this. They both come from very different backgrounds and while I like and appreciate both of them as filmmakers, they struggle to fill the shoes left behind by Steven Soderbergh, who only serves as a producer on this new installment. Had he directed the film, even with the exact script used here, it would’ve resulted in a much better movie.
2 1/2 Stars
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